Things You Thought You Knew #12: How to Survive Falling Out of an Airplane

What You Thought You Knew: If you fall out of an airplane when it’s at cruising altitude (around 35,000 feet), there’s no way you’ll survive.


What You Didn’t Know: While I wouldn’t use the word “many” to describe the number of people who have survived falls from airplanes, they do exist, and they’re probably a bit more numerous than you’d think.

The fact that people survive, though, is not the primary goal of this post. It is, after all, about “things you thought you knew” — so let’s address some things you probably thought are good for you if you’re falling from such a height.

Myth #1: Try to land in the water, since it will give out and break your fall.

Yeah, no. Scientists have shown that, if you’re coming from above roughly 1,000 feet, water is no better than concrete. Falling less than that (maybe a few stories)? Definitely find some water if you can. But at the velocity you’ll be going after a fall from a plane, water may actually be more dangerous than landing on concrete — at least with concrete, when you get knocked out from the impact you won’t drown.

If anything, you want to try to aim for sloped hills that you’ll roll down afterward, soft things like snow, swamps, hay, or bushes (or trees, if you deem the landscape so not-good-for-falling-people that the risk of being impaled outweighs the rest), or even aluminum/tin roofs or glass buildings and cars. All are better than the good ol’ ground.

Myth #2: Land on your feet, no matter what.

While it is best to land on the balls of your feet (with your knees bent) if at all possible, there are some situations where trying to do so would put you in more danger. If it will take a contortion to get you feet-down and you run the risk of landing on your side or in some sort of “incomplete” flip-over to your feet, the next best option, if you can believe it, is to land on your face.

Make no mistake — your “face” is not the same as your “head.” DON’T land on your head (especially the back of your head). It’s for this reason that you should lace your fingers together behind your head with your elbows facing forward during impact. But your face has a lot of extra cartilage and bones that can help to absorb the shock before it reaches your brain. You’re not going to come out looking like Natalie Portman, but you might just live.

That being said, do try not to land on your face at all. Feet, please.

Myth #3: I’ll have a lot of time to steer myself to a good place to land.

Well, yes and no. Yes, if you fall from cruising altitude, you’ll have around 2 or 2.5 minutes of free-falling. But you won’t be conscious for all of it. There’s not much oxygen up there, so you’ll be knocked out for about a minute of your total falling time. Still, one minute remaining is plenty to give you time to look around and think, so don’t panic.

It’s possible to steer yourself while in the air, and put your body into an arch to slow yourself down as much as possible.

Myth #4: I should try to get as far away from debris as possible while falling.

While it’s true that any debris (such as from a broken plane wing) could be dangerous, if you can in any way get hold of a piece of plane, DO IT. People who hit the ground while attached to a piece of debris have a significantly higher chance of survival than those who don’t (31 survivors to 13). These people are often called “wreckage riders.”

So, snag some debris, aim for a snowy hilltop, and enjoy your few minutes of contemplating the essence of life as you fall to your (probably still quite likely) death. But keep a good attitude — of the people who have survived, almost all claim that their “never give up” attitude helped them to think calmly and clearly. And they’re still alive — that says something.

Now You Know: what to do in case you fall out of an airplane.


Things You Thought You Knew #4: There’s a Word for That in English, Right?

What You Thought You Knew: The English language vocabulary is sufficient for expressing our needs. When we don’t have a word for something, it’s because we haven’t learned the word for it.


What You Didn’t Know: You know you’ve been there — that moment when you’re stuck, mid-sentence, scrounging around for a word, but you just can’t find anything that means what you want. So you have to resort to spelling it out in a long, explanatory phrase because you just can’t find a word for it.

What’s up with that?

You’d think that any language that’s been around for a while would be able to articulate anything that you’d ever need. And truth is, we can. So What You Thought You Knew is actually pretty correct to begin with — our language can function to cover our expressive needs.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that we’ve got a word for everything! Other languages have words that we don’t, so it looks like we’re missing a lot of words. We don’t have a single word to express a person whose face just really needs a fist (literally…a person in need of a face-punch), but German does — backpfeifengesicht. Similarly, Malaysia’s pisan zapra has no parallel in English…unless we were to explain that it’s the amount of time an average person takes to eat a banana.

Now You Know: That foreign languages have a lot of interesting words that we don’t!

Top 5 Unique Things to See in Budapest

I’m not talking about those places that you should see in Budapest — you know, the Parliament, the bridges, all of that. That’s easy enough for you to find out about. I’m talking about those places that you can walk right by without a second glance, those places well worth seeing yet that rarely make it on popular travel sites as the go-to destinations in Hungary’s largest city.

#5 — The Duck Pond at Vajdahunyad Vára

Vajdahunyad Castle is most likely a destination on your trip to Budapest, but there are a lot of hidden gems surrounding the castle that you’re unlikely to find while your focus is still on the castle itself.


Because you can enter the castle through that bridge, many people neglect walking past the bridge and onto the docks. There’s a small, homey park with wooden paths spanning the waters of the lake around Vajdahunyad, so take some friends for a relaxing day at the water’s edge or feed the friendly ducks.


#4 — The Lucky Horse on Várhegy

Várhegy, more commonly known to tourists as Castle Hill, is a great place for a new visitor to Budapest to experience a great view a city while knocking quite a few popular items like Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion off of the sightseeing list. However, if you spend some time wandering the narrow side streets at the top of the hill, you’ll discover a statue, rain-worn and sun-bleached, of a horse and rider. At first is appears to be nothing special, as Budapest is especially fond of making statues for everything.


However, young people from all over Budapest come up to this statue in the dark hours of night to crawl underneath it and place a hand on the horse’s testicles, which are gold. If you’d like some good luck for your stay in Budapest, stop by and pay the horse (or rather, his testicles…) a visit!


#3 — The Lock Block between St. Istvan Cathedral and Deak Square

On your way to see the popular tourist attraction known as St. Stephen’s Basilica, take a break in the small park nearby and find the testament to all the young love blossoming in Budapest — a block of steel bars on which are fastened hundreds of locks inscribed with the names of two lovers who are committed to staying together forever. Together, they throw the key into the nearby Danube.


A good place to propose or confess your love for the person you’re traveling with? Perhaps. Bring a lock of your own if you feel like it. You’d probably be a little more confident than some of the young soulmates in Budapest….


#2 — The Tree of Life in the Great Synagogue

The Great Synagogue just a short walk from Astoria is surely an eye-catcher, but take a tour of the inside to get a glimpse of the giant steel tree known as the Tree of Life. Metal leaves inscribed with names commemorate the Jews taken from Hungary during the Holocaust. Walk underneath and get yourself lost in the glimmering steel branches, which were fashioned in vague resemblance of the Jewish candelabra.



#1 — The Timewheel near Heroes’ Square (especially on New Year’s Eve!)

One of the world’s largest hourglasses, the Timewheel in Budapest clocks in (ha ha…) at more than 60 tons and runs constantly all year long.


However, on New Year’s Eve, the sand runs out. The wheel is then rolled by human hands to restart, the crystals within beginning again with the new year.

Make sure you get someone to take your picture in front of it — this thing is bigger than it looks! [photo courtesy of trekearth, cattaro]



Budapest is full of all kinds of unique and interesting things that didn’t make it onto this list, such as a water fountain in Egyetem Ter shaped like a book (with turning pages!), lion statues without tongues, and a wall of amateur paintings at Moricz Zsigmond, to name only a few. Part of the joys of travel is finding these hidden treasures yourself, so get out and explore!


Silent Vlog — Gerbeaud Haz Light Show

Another Monday, another silent vlog. This time, it’s is the annual (totally AWESOME) light show which plays on the facade of the Gerbeaud confectionery on the hour from 16:00-20:00 during December at the Christmas market.

That was a lot of prepositions.